Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota

Former Republican Rep. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisTwo swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (Minn.) announced Thursday he will challenge Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithOur hidden infrastructure crisis: School cafeterias Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood charges into 2020 | PhRMA CEO warns against Pelosi drug pricing bill | Medicaid work requirements costing states millions MORE (D-Minn.) in the Gopher State’s Senate race next year. 

Lewis, who was elected to the House in 2016 and served a single term before losing reelection, cast his campaign as a crusade for a list of conservative cultural touchpoints against a “radical political movement” he says is gaining prominence in Washington.

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“Today we are at a crossroads in Minnesota and across this country not seen since the chaos and turmoil of the 1960s,” Lewis said in his campaign launch video. “Private property, religious liberty, due process, the pride of citizenship, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, even Betsy Ross’s flag, are now seen as dispensable relics to a radical political movement that appears to be gaining steam in the corridors of power.”

Lewis went on to accuse liberals of “declaring border walls immoral, but not infanticide” and wanting to “abolish [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE, private health insurance, welfare work requirements, air travel, fossil fuels, the internal combustion engine, why, capitalism itself.”

“Well, I’m not going to sit on the sidelines. I’m going to fight back,” he said. 

Lewis focused on tying Smith to the so-called “squad,” a group of four progressive, freshman congresswomen of color made up of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president Pennsylvania candidate would be first autistic woman elected to a state legislature Pressley joins hundreds of activists calling for Kavanaugh impeachment: 'I believe in the power of us' MORE (D-Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-Mich.), who have sparked widespread conservative ire over their advocacy for a slate of social justice issues.

His announcement comes as the GOP is gearing up for war in Minnesota, a state where Republicans are keen on gaining ground after President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE narrowly lost there by roughly 1.5 points in 2016.

Lewis won a suburban seat in 2016 but was ousted by about 6 points in 2018 amid a nationwide Democratic surge in similar districts that was viewed as a rebuke of the White House.

On his campaign website, Lewis touted his votes for the GOP’s tax cut plan and efforts to slash regulations while in the House.

He will have an uphill battle in his effort to unseat Smith, who was appointed to her role in January 2018 to fill the seat vacated after Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show MORE (D) resigned. She handily won the 2018 special election in November by 11 points. 

Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, panned Lewis as Trump’s “hand-picked” candidate in a statement and expressed confidence that “Minnesota voters will reject this failed attempt at a second act.” 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “Likely Democratic.”